Cardinals news from a Sabermetric point of view

“Killer Cs” Craig and Carpenter filling Pujols’s shoes

The news that Lance Berkman is out for the season stung less because Allen Craig and Matt Carpenter have staffed first base as well as a healthy Big Puma might have. Craig has picked up where he left off last year, raking at a .381 wOBA clip, and Carpenter has been the surprise of the season, sporting a .371 OBP in his rookie campaign.

Between the two of them, they have played 69% of the team’s innings at first base. But before Big Puma left the hole there, an even bigger figure departed it: Albert Pujols.

Most people who looked at Pujols’s recent history of wOBA (.449, .420, .385 from 2009-2011) figured that he was already in the decline years of his career and unlikely to return to his previous period of productivity. The Cardinals made that bet, but even John Mozeliak couldn’t have guessed that the Cardinals would already be winning in the first year of Pujols’s new $254 million, 10-year contract with the Angels.

Adjusting for playing time — Pujols has played first base in only about 82% of his games this season, and Craig and Carpenter have played other corner positions — the combined production of the Killer Cs gives Pujols a run for his, er, money:

wOBA wRC+ 1B WAR
Pujols .366 134 2.9
Craig and Carpenter .374 139 2.9

And of course for reference, let’s look at the salaries:

1B WAR Salary
Pujols 2.9 $12,000,000
Craig and Carpenter 2.9 $975,000

We suppose the only downside is that Craig and Carpenter occupy two roster spots. Then again, they have a total combined WAR of 4.3 (to Pujols’s 3.6).

Pujols’s wins above replacement used to seem like a forbiddingly difficult task to fill. But as the Cardinals vie to return to the playoffs, they can safely say that they have at least been able to replace their former first baseman, which is as much a commentary on how potent Craig and Carpenter have been. It’s just that filling Albert’s shoes happened a lot sooner than most people expected.

5 Responses to ““Killer Cs” Craig and Carpenter filling Pujols’s shoes”

  1. leftie32 Says:

    What about an adjustment for the first year with a new club and in a new league?

  2. Pip Says:

    You mean the league in which he gets to play 20% of his games without having to play in the field? The previous two seasons, he lost 6% and 8% year-to-year in wOBA. This year he has lost only 5%. So he’s clearly adjusting!

    I’m sure that Albert appreciates your undying apologizing. ;)

  3. leftie32 Says:

    I don’t know if this is true or not, but I think he lived with his agent, Dan Lozano, for the first part of the season. Lozano has a radically different lifestyle than Pujols is used to (to say it nicely). Pujols’ family was still here in St. Louis until the summer when school finished. Do you think that messed with his adjustment to a new team and environment? I think next year will be better. The intangibles matter and often cannot be meausured accurately.

    I’m a Cards’ fan before a Pujols’ fan, but give the guy a break! :)

  4. Pip Says:

    I believe that I read that, as well, leftie. That’s a possible explanation, but remember that he started slowly last year in St. Louis, as well. All I’m saying is that his numbers (and ongoing decline) this year really aren’t surprising given his recent performance.

    My post wasn’t intended as a personal slight on Pujols. It’s a simple matter of actual production, and Craig and Carpenter are getting the job done.

  5. leftie32 Says:

    Yes agreed I’m liking Craig (and Carpenter) more and more as I watch them. I have to admit I didn’t think Craig was going to be as successful as he has been (note my comment about his big, inefficient swinging motion at the plate when we were at the game on Sunday). It’s nice to see although I miss the Big Puma out there.

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